"Dancing for Unicef"
Royal Danish Ballet
When "Other Dances" was premiered earlier this month I was not impressed with the choreography and wrote it of as a piece de occasion. What I realise now is that there is real value in the choreography and it can be brought out by the right dancers, in this case the teaming of Thomas Lund and Alexandra LoSardo who reinvented the work before our eyes.
When two of the hottest dancers in Copenhagen Alban Lendorf and J'aime Crandall danced the premiere of "Other Dances" the miracle did not really happen. Good dancing and strong technique, sure, but it was unclear why Nikolaj Hübbe had chosen this particular work for the company. Second cast fared no better. Now finally three weeks into the run it clicks. The way Thomas Lund and Alexandra LoSardo dances and interpret the pas de deux, totally changes the concept of the ballet. They dance it not as a technical tour de force. Their skills are up high, but the focus is on the musicality and the qualities of each step and phrasing. It gets a real romantic feeling without any hint of romance.
Soloist LoSardo is one of the best of the new crop of dancers who has joined RDB in the last years and like Lena Maria Gruber and J'aime Crandall she gets a lot of opportunities as a partner for the shorter male principals. She is not a demi character type but the rare bread of a small danseuse noblesse. A few years ago she even managed a good Second Movement in "Symphony in C". Her dancing are detailed and musically clear. At the intro Morten Eggert, always an interesting speaker on ballet, declared his admiration for her French style of dancing and predicted that she would bring new qualities out in Thomas Lund's dancing, and indeed they proved a very good match.
Thomas Lund's work this season has been outstanding, not only in his signature piece in "The Lesson" but also in "The Concert" and now here, where he managed to emerge his musicality, elegance and skills with an underlying air of melancholy to the work. It look like LoSardo and Lund has analyzed each fragment of the ballet and chosen the best way to present it. It was a masterclass in concentration and projection.
Lund is at a stage of his career, which is a difficult stage for many dancers. At his mid-thirties he is no longer a natural for the ingenue repertoire, but what we see in Thomas Lund is his steady invasion of new territories: character parts, modern dance and he is probably now a stronger classicist than he had ever been.
Earlier this month he and his frequent partner from younger years Gudrun Bojesen also took over the leads in "The Concert". The two previous casts have done everything expected of them and scored personal success and yet Bojesen and Lund managed to bring it to an even higher level and ad even more personality and humour to the roles. They enhances Robbins choreography and makes the ballet much stronger.
Gudrun Bojesen also got the change to compete on an international level, when Ulrik Bikkjær and Sebastian Kloborg turned their injury hiatus into a fundraising event for Unicef. The two dancers have previously arranged small scale tours and performances and Sebastian Kloborg has obviously learned something from his father, former ballet master Frank Andersen, who has always been a vivid organizer of tours and events. However Frank Andersen had never produced anything on this scale in his mid-twenties. Birkkjær and Kloborg have managed to raise funding for bringing in dancers like Marcelo Gomez, ATB, Nina Ananiashvili, Johan Kobborg and Alina Cojacaru, Tamara Rojo and Nehemiah Kish as well as the full RDB company with Nikolaj Hübbe as conferencier. The Old stage was packed at double prices and there was great press coverage. The Brits brought two MacMillan pieces. "Winter Dream" for Roja and Kish and the last scene from "Mayerling" for Kobborg and Cojacaru.
RDB's contribution was a very fine "Etudes" with Gudrun Bojesen, Marcin Kupinsky and newcomer Jon Axel Fransson and an outstanding corps. Especially Gudrun Bojesen shined with a strong performance highlighting her musicality and interpretation skills. She outperformed the other international ballerinas as she could be more dramatic and sensitive even in a tutu role than the two Royal Ballet ballerinas, who should have had the advantage of dancing more dramatic roles.
Speaking of mid-30ties challenges for dancers, Johan Kobborg, who once shared many roles with Lund in younger days, seems more challenged than Lund. And one got the impression that his choice of number for this galla was a message to brand himself as a more dramatic dancer. Cojacaru is really to sweet to be credible as the morbid Vetsera and it looks like they may face a more difficult transition than Bojesen and Lund. Nina Ananishvili being a Russian (Georgian) dancer is now leading the Georgian National ballet, but as a mature dancer she is blessed by being in a culture where ballerinas just keep doing what they always has done such as the dying swan. For Bojesen and Lund, for whom one once saw little career opportunities outside Bournonville, they have both managed to keep growing and developing and is dancing as well as ever: Hübbe knows how to use them and they currently are holding up the performance levels at RDB and serve as a marker for the younger dancers.